Over Promise Under Deliver

 Life is full of marvelous things and has its share of challenges too. In my 25 plus years of coaching people in all sorts of organizations, the theme of over promising and under delivering often thrives. Successful people often have enormous expectations for themselves. On top of that, we can honestly see almost a religious like worship of “over-achievers” in our country.

Our school systems, family systems and organizational systems project human beings into these roles of unbelievable achievement. It takes grand vision, hard work, intelligence and being in the right place at the right time to succeed. I’m not debating this premise.

What I’m saying is we are indoctrinated to have expectations, which wildly exaggerate reality. Whether it’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos, all are visionaries. Some of these men may or may not over promise in their lives.

When we’re younger we idolize people we often don’t know, great figures like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Abe Lincoln, or a myriad of other people who have achieved much in his/her lives.

Many of us become what Dr. Robert K. Smith has termed, “The Responsible Perfectionist.” Our minds build a conceptual model of perfection for ourselves and we ignore the practical aspect of second-to-second reality. These biases in our thinking often leave us with this grinding, debilitating mantra, “It is never good enough.”

Perhaps through our high school years we are unaware of our enormous expectations. Many of us can continue to have success using this overly demanding thought process, because it is our reality. We don’t know anything else.

Marriage, climbing the management ladder and other relationship-oriented life pursuits start to challenge us. The more our success is based on relationships, this secure foundation starts to crumble.

For most of us don’t understand what is happening. Why aren’t “my people” doing their jobs as well as I expect? Why is my child not getting straight A’s, captain of his/her sports teams and president of the student council? Why doesn’t my spouse see that my view of the world is correct? We can go on and on with questions based on our biases in our thinking.

The driving force of personal competition, unrealistic expectations of ourselves and the personal kudos we receive for plowing blindly ahead, start to debilitate our effectiveness in leading people.

Often my clients find themselves in a situation where they are overly stressed, they can’t figure out why people won’t do what they expect and then finally hit-the-wall.

Usually, it comes about from an external force, your boss suggests that you need to take a different tack with people. Your spouse files for divorce. Your children rebel against you. You are fired.

Rarely, does someone discover his/her major foibles without a drastic event impacting his/her life. Sadly many people don’t get the message the first time and repeat the process.

Over promising to yourself and then feeling like you are constantly under delivering can lead you to isolate from your family and work colleagues. Your loved ones and coworkers bear the brunt of your anger, generated by nothing ever being right or good enough. Usually people with this syndrome become micro-managers, telling employees and family members how everything “should” be accomplished.

I have learned as a father, an executive, a manager and a coach it is about creating an environment where others can be successful. It is a different path than the path of individual success. In order to be successful one must encourage others to chart his/her path toward your common vision.

You are responsible for being clear about the purpose of your organization and give people the tools to help their lives get a bit better. Your life getting better is now about creating an environment for other’s success. This requires a shift in your mindset from one unrealistic demand (over promising) to give yourself permission to begin altering some of your personal expectations.

Remember, when you over promise to yourself you are creating a breeding ground for a false sense of self. You are abandoning your human gifts chasing a concept called perfection and life becomes more and more isolating as you pedal harder and harder.